6 ladies hold HICFA banner
Nursing staff at the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS

The nursing staff of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS (HICFA) were recognized with the 2021 Suzanne Richard-Crum Award at the annual World AIDS Day ceremony on December 1. The virtual event took place at 6 p.m.

The award is presented by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH)-Harm Reduction Services Branch to recognize those who have made “outstanding contributions in providing HIV/AIDS services.” In honor of the HICFA nurses, Gov. David Ige has also proclaimed December 1, 2021 as “Nurses of the Hawaiʻi Center for AIDS Day.”

Under the leadership of its director Cecilia Shikuma, HICFA conducts research to evaluate optimal therapies for HIV infection and AIDS-associated complications, increase understanding of the disease, and transfer research findings to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV. HICFA operates the Clint Spencer Clinic on Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi Island, and provides care to about 500 patients living with HIV statewide.

For more than 30 years, HICFA nurses have been dedicated to ending HIV and its stigma. They stepped forward to uphold the values of the nursing profession in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when fear and discrimination were widespread. They have provided essential medical care to hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The group has contributed to important research in numerous clinical trials for effective treatments and toward finding a cure. Their work with AIDS service organizations and HIV housing programs has also elevated the level of health care among people living with HIV in Hawaiʻi.

“The current COVID pandemic reminds us of the challenges we faced when the HIV epidemic began four decades ago,” said Glenn Wasserman, chief of the DOH’s Communicable Disease and Public Health Nursing Division. “Our former Department of Health colleague, Suzanne Richard-Crum, would be proud of the HICFA nurses, who have worked tirelessly on the frontlines, providing direct patient care and taking the time to build meaningful bonds with their patients, seeing the whole person, not just the disease.”

The entire nursing staff of HICFA, past and present, are being honored for their dedication and self-sacrifice. The HICFA nursing team includes: Debbie Ogata-Arakaki (retired), Nancy Hanks (retired), Cris Milne, Lorna Nagamine, Maya Barney and Mary Lichota. The past nurses whose dedication and commitment left long lasting impacts include: Paul Coelho, Nicole Valcour, Joanne Frederick Auskern, Jo McKeague, Lyle Oshita, Monica Millard, James Cairl, Sandra Akina and Sue Congdon.

Suzanne Richmond-Crum served for more than a decade as director of the Hawaiʻi Seropositivity and Medical Management Program of the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Harm Reduction Services Branch and passed away in August 2004. The award was established in honor of the competence and compassion she demonstrated in her HIV/AIDS work and is presented each year in Hawaiʻi for outstanding contributions in providing HIV/AIDS services. 2021 will mark the 18th annual bestowing of this honor.

Learn more about the recognition and all statewide World AIDS Day events.

This recognition is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.